Court filings have revealed that Special Counsel Robert Mueller has even broader authority than the already extensive power granted by Rod Rosenstein to investigate the Trump campaign and “and any matters that arose or may arise directly from the investigation.” In an August 2, 2017 memo, Rosenstein gave the special counsel authority to investigate Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort for his efforts in the Ukraine, and his ongoing outreach to Russia.
Robert Mueller, the U.S. Justice Department’s special counsel, is specifically authorized to investigate allegations that Paul Manafort, President Donald Trump’s former campaign chairman, colluded with Russia to interfere with the 2016 presidential election, a court filing showed late on Monday.
They court documents also show that Mueller is specifically authorized to investigate Manafort’s ties to Ukraine’s former pro-Russia government.
In his last court appearance, Paul Manafort’s attorneys made a play to have his entire case thrown out on claims that Mueller’s investigation into Manafort’s dealings with Russian officials were not a matter connected to the Trump campaign, and that Mueller was reading his authority too broadly. Mueller has now responded by revealing that he has a broader writ than anyone previously knew. The investigation into Manafort, Gates, and their activities in Eastern Europe didn’t require any extended reading of “matters arising from” the investigation into the campaign. They were specifically authorized by Rosenstein.
And there are reasons to believe that the memo authorizing Mueller to look into Manafort and his previous work in the Ukraine may not be the limit of items that Rosenstein told the special counsel’s team to consider. There was another court filing on Monday evening — one that suggests there’s even more to the investigation than that what was revealed in Mueller’s refutation of Manafort’s claims.
The memo that Rosenstein wrote on August 2 states that Mueller is also authorized to look into charges that Manafort “committed a crime or crimes by colluding with Russian government officials” specifically concerning the 2016 election. None of Manafort’s current charges are related to that investigation — which strongly suggests that Mueller isn’t done with Trump’s former campaign chief.
Additional court papers were filed on Monday evening related to an agreement with indicted lawyer Alex van der Zwaan, who is scheduled to be sentenced this week. In the documents, van der Zwaan agreed to a suspension of his Freedom of Information rights and to withhold aspects of the case. A judge had blocked part of a similar agreement with Rick Gates, but in the case of van der Zwaan, Mueller’s team made it explicit — Dutch lawyer van der Zwaan is aware of parts of the case that haven’t been made public.
“Van der Zwaan is in an unusual position of having information related to the office’s investigation that is not widely known — including information that he knows first-hand due to his role in the conduct the Office is investigating,” the filing on Monday morning says.
It seems unlikely that the information being protected here is the authority Rod Rosenstein extended to investigate Manafort, Gates, and van der Zwaan for their actions in Ukraine, since Mueller revealed that information just hours later in a second filing. The suggestion is that whatever Van der Zwaan knows, it’s related to … something else.
Last week, prosecutors revealed that van der Zwaan was privy to fall 2016 communications between Gates and a person with ties to the Russian military intelligence service, and that his knowledge of those communications was relevant to the investigation.
Van der Swann is set to be sentenced on Tuesday — the first person to be sentenced after indictment by Mueller. The special counsel has argued that the judge should consider jail time for van der Swann, a move that’s clearly seen as a signal to other defendants.
The secrecy agreement in the deal with van der Swann is similar to a section of the deal with Rick Gates that was blocked by the court, but this time Mueller made it clear that the agreement with van der Swann was needed to safeguard aspects of the ongoing investigation.
Manafort’s attorneys previously challenged Mueller’s indictments not just on the basis that the charges were unrelated to Rosenstein’s original instructions, but also on the idea that the whole institution of a special counsel was itself unconstitutional. They seem very unlikely to win on that basis.